Santiniketan, April 15: A Visva-Bharati garden superintendent working for the past 20 years was arrested today in what police believe is a big step towards cracking the mystery surrounding the theft of Rabindranath Tagore’s memorabilia.
With the arrest of Abhoy Mahapatra, also a former president of the university employees’ union, the police said it appears that the Nobel heist was not committed by ordinary thieves but university insiders.
Apart from the gardens, Mahapatra was entrusted with the care of Upasana Griha.
According to the police, though Mahapatra was arrested in connection with the breaking of the lock at the Uddyan Vibhag gate, he is expected to provide vital clues to the burglary of Tagore’s Nobel medal and other memorabilia. Mahapatra had allegedly planned the lock break.
“Mahapatra’s arrest is a major breakthrough. It seems that he played a key role in the museum heist. Recovery of the articles stolen from the Rabindra Bhavan museum now appears a matter of time,” said a police officer.
“The lock was broken to derail the probe into the heist and mislead the CID and CBI sleuths who are probing the case jointly. The Uddyan Vibhag incident must have a link with the Nobel heist,” said Mrityunjoy Banerjee, the officer-in-charge of Bolpur police station.
Mahapatra was grilled through the day. His involvement in the crime came to light during the interrogation of Sunil Dutta, the peon who was in charge of locking the Uddyan Vibhag gate, and Gopal Bagdi, a gardener.
Today, it was learnt that Bagdi was not a varsity employee and was working in place of his father, a staff member.
Dutta told the police that he was roped in by Bagdi. “He had no idea why he was asked to break the lock. He was a drug addict and carried out the order in exchange of drugs,” said an officer.
Dutta initially tried to mislead the police by naming some university officials. “He gave us three names. The first two proved innocent. The third was Mahapatra. We picked him up this morning. After four hours of questioning, he confessed to having masterminded the plan to break the lock,” said Akhil Roy, the Birbhum superintendent of police.
The police claimed that they have started unravelling the mystery. “We are close to cracking the case. Mahapatra will provide us more vital leads. Probably, one fine morning, you will come to know that the stolen articles have been found lying abandoned in a field,” said an official of Bolpur police station.
Visva-Bharati registrar Sunil Kumar Sarkar said: “We will take departmental action against the arrested employees.”
“Bagdi started working in his father’s place a few months ago. How is it possible without a Visva-Bharati official’s involvement'” asked an investigator.
Police are now looking into the theft and other unusual incidents at the university in the recent past. “We are verifying whether Mahapatra and the two others had a role in the disappearance of a sandalwood tree from Malancha in January and a sudden fire at Upasana in December,” an officer said.